#SecondHalf Update

So, I can’t quite believe it’s been nearly a year since we said goodbye to corporate life, and our world in Joburg. I’ll do a proper update on July 2nd when the year is up, but today was a very special day for us. As most of you will know, we’re on a two year sabbatical to detox from corporate, work on personal stuff, regroup, heal, pray, read, write, publish, and seek God’s will for the second half of our adult life.

It’s been a huge lesson in patience, and will no doubt continue to be. It’s been well over two years since we decided to do this, and the answers are coming slowly… but as always… perfectly. It’s been a huge leap of faith in every way, but we’re starting to bear fruit of our hard work, trust, patience and obedience.

There’ve only been a small handful of concrete directions since the first plans thirty months ago and we’ve just had to keep trusting and pushing forward. Then a month ago there were a couple of biggies and today, almost out of nowhere, a bunch more! In some ways they feel like they’ve come tumbling out of nowhere, but as the kids have reminded us, looking back, everything’s pointed to this!! For so long! Even the little things!

I’m sorry to be so vague, but we’re still working through details and we don’t have all the answers ourselves yet. And we’re so excited and I want you to know we’re working hard on stuff and we aren’t just following our noses around Italy or anywhere else for nothing. And because people keep saying “I hope you’re enjoying your retirement!!” as if we’re wasting our lives doing nothing. We aren’t collecting seashells and we aren’t being mindless.

So if you’re part of the tribe who’re praying for us, please keep praying! If you’re not, that’s ok too and we still appreciate your support and your messages and you’ll know what’s happening the same as anyone else 😊

Thanks too for sooo many book sales and climbing! This is all coming together and we’re enormously thankful!

With love from both of us,

My Captain and his Stoker (photo cred: the Captain 😊)

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New Solar Panel!

So, the new panel arrived in the mail! Woohoo!! Thanks to Paola and Manuel for not only lending us your address, but for organizing an English-speaking Marine-engineer with a fabulous workshop who seriously knew what he was doing.

How thin is the panel 😵

It only took a few hours to get rid of the old silicone, prepare the roof, and install the new one. We should be on the road again by morning 😊

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The Big Scare!

It’s easy to forget that things can go wrong in an instant, and today we learnt this the easy way. We woke up to the most beautiful sounds of the alpacas, dogs, chickens and kittens by the dozens. This place is magical on so many levels and many of my favourite memories are actually just in my head, like a “good morning” from Lorna as one of the dogs dragged her sideways past the fence on their return from their walk.

We ate scrambled eggs straight from the chickens for breakfast then he went for a ride while I thumbed back through Alan’s first book. It’s so different (and wonderful) reading it from the real life setting. Then it was time for a quick visit to town for money and groceries.

Montoro is such a beautiful town. It hugs the steep cliffs along the river with the town built high on the left.

The photos don’t do justice to the steepness of the hills.

We needed some cash but with siesta, of course everything was closed including all the ATMs. So we did a quick Google search, found the only 24 hour machine in the whole town and prayed it was true.

Google took us down an ancient, one way, cobbled street with stunning shade sails down it’s length. It ran parallel to the road along the river in the photos above, but was a whole story higher. It was single lane, so when the ATM on Google was closed but the bank across the road surprisingly open, he stopped Molly and ran in quickly.

It’s almost creepy how quiet these towns are during siesta, there really aren’t any people around and almost no cars. But we didn’t want to be rude, so I climbed into the driver’s seat in case I needed to move.

Sure enough, a car approached slowly from behind and I should have been brave enough to let them wait the thirty seconds or so till we were done, but it’s not the end of the world to drive around the block is it?

His version of what happened next:

I came out the bank in time to see Molly’s shadow disappear around the bend in the road. I had nothing but my wallet and the money, I hadn’t even thought to grab my phone, so I settled in to wait a few minutes for Jennifer to return.

After five minutes I wished I had my phone, after ten I felt annoyed. After twenty I started to worry, and at thirty, when a tow truck hurtled down the road after her I started to panic. Do I follow? Run? Or stick to the plan and stay exactly where she left me. I felt sick to my stomach!

Visions of Spanish hospitals and crumpled Molly raced through my head, was Jennifer even alive???

At forty minutes a police car emerged, blue lights flashing, traveling in the wrong direction down the one way street towards me, turning cars away as they backed up into the square around me.

My version:

I knew I couldn’t turn right. The hill climbed steeply up to my left, and down to my right. A right-right-right-right block was never going to be an option, but hopefully some version of lefts would work.

The road was beautiful and longer than I thought, but I eventually emerged into the original town square:

It was stunning and ancient and he would love it if he was here – we’ll have to come back later again.

But as I slowly crept around the tight, single lane circle, I quickly realised the roads only became thinner and thinner. So I pulled over to check Google maps:

The square was tiny, but incredibly, also had six roads feeding it. The photo of the church above was taken as I emerged into the square at the pin on the map. Road 1 was behind me, the one I’d come from and a one way. Number 2 was the same so not an option, numbers 3 & 4 quickly became so skinny no cars could use them at all. 5 had an arch over the entrance so 6 looked like the only option and also in the right direction.

So I drove slowly round to position Molly for number 6.

Again, the photos don’t do it justice, the road was so steep and I wasn’t entirely sure it was wide enough at the top. But I hesitated for only a second … all the time it took for a policeman to appear at my window.

Sadly, I don’t speak a single word of Spanish. But she was young, maybe thirty or so. Very pretty with bright orange lipstick and perfect eye liner. She appeared modern and I was glad she’d likely speak a few words of English but I was mistaken. Not even hello, or no, or help. But she was very kind. She clearly very much wanted to help me.

She spoke at length what may have been offers of all kinds of help, but no amount of sign language, gestures, showing of maps, helped either of us understand the other.

At five minutes we were both laughing, at ten it stopped being funny for me. She asked the few passers by for help but none spoke a word of English either. At twenty minutes she had a brain wave and took out her phone. She spent five minutes typing incredibly slowly, opening and closing things, eventually showing me her screen with beaming pride: A translator! Woohoo! Very clever!

“Why daughter from where with?”

Huh?!?!?! I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but I could not for the life of me work out her intended question.

At half an hour we were back to square one. Had it been a helpful stranger I would have thanked them profusely and driven off long ago, but this woman was a police officer and wouldn’t let me.

Just short of the forty minute mark a middle-aged woman and her mother walked past. Only the fourth people we’d seen the whole time. I called for them, praying hard they knew even a few words of English. They did, thankfully and I was quickly able to establish where I needed to go. They pointed up road 6, which is where I wanted to go all along. I asked is it wide enough further along. Yes they both assured me, nodding knowingly.

Trying not to be rude and fly out of there, I gently backed up a little, ready to take Molly up the steep cobbled road, nervous of my small audience, and making a stupid mistake. As they watched me they were all speaking at once to each other in speedy Spanish.

As I crept forward, the three of them suddenly stopped and raised their arms in the air in alarm, stopping me in my tracks. The police woman dashed to her car, and the ladies told me to go with her. I started climbing out of Molly when they shook their heads vigorously. It turned out I needed to follow her in Molly.

She turned her blue flashing lights on, and took off slowly down road 1… the wrong way up the one way, … arm out the window, gesturing madly for me to follow.

I was so embarrassed as I realized that the earlier strangers who’d shaken their heads and not been able to help the policewoman, had plonked themselves down to watch the crazy English woman in the camper van. They waved me through encouragingly and shouted loud Spanish farewells as our little procession of two drove slowly down the road.

I started laughing, I couldn’t help it, I was soooo embarrassed!

As we ventured round the last curve my heart just broke at the site of my love with his hands on his head in dread and fear! They dropped to his mouth as he saw Molly… I’d no idea what was going through his head but his fear and worry again, broke my heart.

He was beside himself with so many feelings mixed in with his relief at seeing me. I hobbled out the driver’s seat as he rushed to take my place. I could tell his heart was racing and the people-pleaser in him distraught at the group of backed up cars and the police, blue lights still flashing.

They all pointed in one direction to the short road out of town, but that would require us to drive round the circle to get there, right through the middle of the gauntlet of cars watching and pointing.

He was so frazzled he just wanted to bolt in the other direction…. straight back into the labyrinth of streets I’d just escaped from! Instead of taking the blue route they pointed to, we headed deeper and deeper into the old city, higgledy-piggledy all the way to the river. His stress levels rose the further we got, but there was no turning back…

We made it through streets so tight we had to fold in the mirrors on both sides. Thank goodness for siesta and the mostly empty streets, but it was another good half hour before we were out again and heading home to the Olive Mill…

It’s all part of the adventure. But as many know, the outcome could’ve been very different. Holidays go wrong, car accidents happen anywhere, and medical emergencies don’t care whether you’re at home or abroad. For the fourth time in as many weeks, we feel thoroughly thankful for a pretty good outcome….

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Happiness Is….

Sleeping in the middle of nowhere, tucked deep under the lip of a huge dam wall, among the trees, chickens, donkeys and even the odd mountain goat. I’ll admit it was also a little creepy in a strange way, but it was also wonderful.

After a midnight snack of cheese & hams we found in the fridge, we slept like logs, woke late, cooked oats for breakfast, packed Molly up again, and climbed the steep embankment back up to the roaring freeway hundreds of feet above.

Happiness, for us, is also togetherness, the open road, brave life off the grid, olive trees as far as the eye can see, mountains, alpacas, chickens, and absolutely delightful people…

Go on, zoom in, can you see those olive trees?? I love “order” and I love “natural” and those rarely come together … yet here they do, in spades.

We’ve come on search of Memoirist Alan Parks, deep in the hottest part of Spain (which is a hot country) in the middle of nowhere. It’s also known as the “Frying Pan of Spain” and I’d forgotten that bit when we set out on this journey.

I first read his book, “Seriously Mum, what’s an Alpaca?” a couple of years ago around the same time we coincidently fell in love with alpacas ourselves. Alan does such a good job describing their adventures as Brits giving up the rat race, that I really wanted to come here to see it for myself. This was the same time that we were planning our Second Half, and it was really encouraging to know we weren’t the only crazy people around. So I’ve been following him for a while now and while there’s so much more to tell you, for now, we’re so thankful for a few hours this afternoon with Alan and his adorable partner Lorna. They’re even better in real life and their home is everything the books describes and more.

It’s a magnificent home, a stunning B&B, a true oasis, complete with a never ending running spring (you know, the actual water kind), fresh eggs for breakfast, great stories about real people, real lives, challenges, adventure, and yet more fabulous food!!

But most of it will have to wait till tomorrow!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Packing up one’s life!

People keep telling me how brave we are. It feels weird, as we don’t feel brave. The theory of packing up our lives and having a season to rewind, repurpose, rewire our lives sounds to most people who’ve responded as a great idea… but brave.

Why brave? Are we stupid, blind, crazy? Am I missing yet another memo that everyone else appears to have?

There is little about what we’re doing that hasn’t been done before, and daily on social media, we are encouraged to do all these things. There is little about what we’re doing that we personally haven’t done before.

We spent the first year of our married life living in a campervan as illegal aliens in a foreign land with absolutely no money… pregnant!

This time we won’t live in it full time (next week we will be off in search of a possible small nest to use as a base), we will no doubt have a key to the van so we won’t need to jump start it every time we drive it. This time we should have a sink that works and we won’t need a wrench to open and close the sliding door. It will be pure luxury!

I’ve done 8 international moves, some of our belongings have circumnavigated the entire world over the last few decades. I thought there was nothing I didn’t know about selling houses & cars, culling, visas, home affairs and shipping. But I’m wrong…

We are talking about selling our safe spaces, dealing with 4 different countries at once, managing six different contexts on a regular basis and all the while juggling 17 balls at once, including new babies …and if we drop just one of them, even for a moment, they will all come crashing down. But I can do that, I’ve done it before…

But sometimes it feels like everything is going against us. As we speak Mr.S is driving to a lawyer in terrible traffic to have documents that have been just fine our entire lives, Apostillized! Autocorrect tells me that word doesn’t even exist. But I can tell you it does, and that lawyers can charge $750 for one document (we have 7 we need doing, but don’t worry, after the first one, the rest are only $350 each!!!). It’s like Certified copies on steroids and takes 2 days, and we need them yesterday. Thankfully someone who knows someone will do it for only a leg instead of both an arm and a leg, and we’re trying to be grateful while we choke.

It also turns out that there are apparently NO house buyers out there. This can’t be entirely true or literal (in the real sense of the word) of course but so far I’ve heard that story from almost everyone I know. And it’s not just buyers, it’s renters as well. They all up and left apparently.

I’m trying to remain optimistic but it’s tough when you feel well prepared for the nineteen doors that need knocking on, and you wisely expect that many of them won’t open easily. But I feel like I’ve smashed my face into just about all of them they are slammed shut so hard.

I’m trying not to let the voices in my head win and throw in the towel and do what everyone else does and just be normal for once. My husband tells me I like being different. I don’t, I can assure you I hate it. I just don’t know how to be the same as everyone else. I grew up missing all the memos everyone else got and had to work life out for myself. It’s hard to take the tarred road when you know what’s behind the fences along the side. Yes, it’s tough out there, but there are also so many mountains and streams and beaches and palm trees …. out there beyond the normal…

Anyway, sorry to have a gripe, but I promised to share the journey and it’s important not to make it look rosy when it isn’t. Right now it sucks!

(and sorry to use the same photo … Im tired…)

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Family Secrets!

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I stumbled on this photo today. Well, not quite in this condition, of course, I had to hide the identities of all of them even though I would LOVE to put this picture on a billboard somewhere in all its clarity and colour!

That’s the thing about Christmas and New Year, even long before social media or even the internet, it was a time to connect, share, take and send out family photos and news. This is good for many of us, we love to connect and embrace and celebrate. It is part of the core of our beings to be part of a tribe and to celebrate together.

But with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before they are adults, most of whom were/are abused by family members, this holiday season is a time of immense trauma! Why?

  • Abusers/ex-abusers are often present at these family gatherings and we are forced to be in their company and say nothing.
  • Abuse often happens when families are staying in each other’s homes, bundled into rooms and onto couches around the house. So family get-togethers are often also anniversaries of past abuse.
  • Alcohol flows, emotions are high, abusers are triggered and are more likely to “need” to act out and “self-soothe”.
  • For those same reasons, abused children’s emotions are more likely to be invisible, lost in the chaos, the booze, the fights and the general busyness. People are also busy and don’t have resources left to see or hear things that aren’t quite right around them.

The list goes on, but there is another one I want to highlight today. And that is the family letters, the photos, the gatherings captured all over social media and emails. One can ignore an uncle (or aunt) who abused us as much as possible during the year, but at this time of year their faces pop up all over the place and it can send many people into a tailspin.

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This is the photo I stumbled upon this morning, and here are the characters:

G is not in the actual picture, I have simply placed them at the bottom so I can explain the connections. G is someone I love. This is their story to tell, not mine, hence all the cloaks and daggers. If I had my way, I’d be shouting this from the rooftops!

A is married to D (marriage circled in pink). (F is their granddaughter through C but I’ll leave her out for now).

B is married to E (marriage circled in pink, I’ve left E out for now too).

A & B are siblings (blue line).

C is the adult child of D, stepchild of A, and parent of E. – C is also the older cousin to G.

Supposedly, this is a run of the mill family Christmas photo, shared today with lots of news. “Innocent” in so many ways. But here is what it means to G when they see it (hopefully they haven’t and won’t).

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Those thick orange lines are verifiable sexual abuse! We won’t even go into emotional abuse and other forms of control and manipulation within this family. But:

  • Siblings A & B each sexually abused their child and stepchild.
  • C (at 16) went on to abuse G (at 14) on a whole new level of physical sexual abuse.

Those orange lines are from G‘s own personal experiences and knowledge. But we have no choice but to ask ourselves if A abused his stepchild (C), then why not his grandchildren as well? I can’t say. If C abused G, then which of the many other cousins did they also abuse? I have no idea.

If 2 siblings sexually abused their own children, then did the other siblings in their generation also abuse? And if not sexually then in other ways. Were they also then abused themselves? Not all people who are abused go on to abuse as well, in fact, most don’t, but those who do abuse were abused one way or another themselves. Familial patterns like this one which popped up not 2 hours ago are scary!!

I feel physically ill, and my blood is boiling. But the things that boggle my mind the most about this happy snap shared with the world today are the questions in my head; Do they pretend there is no abuse? Do they all just get together and act as though nothing ever happened? Has it even stopped? Or has it been passed down to another generation? Do the spouses know? What is it like to be these people? To be C and stay within the fold and face their abuser on a very regular basis? … I don’t get it, but I understand that many people risk their own healing for the sake of remaining within the tribe. It’s all in or all out. There is no middle road.

has left from this equation entirely and at enormous cost, but it has been vital to their survival. They have never and will likely never confront this lot or the rest of the extended family. This has been the only way to stop the cycle and to protect their own children. It’s not worth taking on the whole tribe.

Whether you have chosen to remain or leave, the cost is huge. And the photos going out there during and post-Christmas can have a massive impact on so many levels…

If you too are struggling through this season of family secrets and nightmares, know you are not alone. I hear you!! If, however, you need some more than just a little encouragement right now, I highly recommend giving a shout out to Matt Pappas at “Beyond Your Past“! He’s a fabulous listener with incredible personal experience.

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Is Yours a Luke-Warm Sea?

img_1061What breaks my heart are brands (authors & others) who don’t succeed, not because they have no support, but because they drown in a sea of luke-warm support. An army of people who sign on in order to “be kind“, to “boost their numbers“, to “see what it’s like” and who all assume someone else is doing the beta reading, the reviews, or standing on a soapbox down on the corner. And when every single one of those people assume that everyone else is at the epicentre of the campaign… no one is!

We, therefore, need to have some committed Brand Ambassadors who volunteer, hold those posts, and do so proudly! Some people who totally get that they are “it”. That the buck stops with them. The rest of the crowd are great because a portion of them, either intentionally or otherwise, will still do bits and pieces here and there, and that is vitally important as well. But the people in the middle, those who have your back, can make or break us. They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is them who will be our greatest allies.

They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is they who will be our greatest allies. These people, are our Tribes. Our Brand Ambassadors. Our Heroes. Our Village.

I am building a tribe. We are about a dozen and we all believe in each other. Our purpose is not to review. Our purpose is to build a tribe and have each other’s backs. When each of us launches, the rest of us shout about it. We multiply the voices, we speak on each other’s behaves. We point to the one in the spotlight.

Who is your Tribe?

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